SLS and Orion: March 2010 Archives

Review of the Constellation Program's Request to Discontinue Using the Metric System of Measurement, NASA OIG

"During our fieldwork, NASA's Chief Engineer told the OIG that he planned to approve the Constellation Program's request for an exception based on the additional costs required to implement the metric system, which Constellation Program officials estimated at $368 million. These implementation costs arise mainly from the reuse of hardware and software from previous NASA programs, including the Space Shuttle, that did not use the metric system, thus requiring revisions to engineering documents, test plans, test equipment, facilities, training, and operations. According to the Chief Engineer and Constellation Program management, the estimated $368 million for metric system implementation would be better spent on mitigating higher priority Program risks."

NASA's $500 million launcher missing just one thing: the rocket it was made for, Washington Post

"Anyone need a $500 million, 355-foot steel tower for launching rockets into space? There's one available at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Brand new, never been used. The mobile launcher has been built for a rocket called the Ares 1. The problem is, there is not yet any such thing as an Ares 1 rocket -- and if the Obama administration has its way, there never will be."

3 astronauts, lt. governor to address 'Save Space' rally, Florida Today

"Three astronauts who flew on the space shuttle will be among the featured speakers at a "Save Space" community rally April 11 at the Cocoa Expo Sports Center. During a planning meeting Friday, rally organizer and Brevard County Commissioner Robin Fisher said astronauts Jon McBride, Winston Scott and Bob Springer have agreed to be speakers. Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp also is expected to speak at the event, along with various elected officials and community leaders."

Cochran and Wicker file bill to stop threat to NASA's Constellation Program, WLOX

"Mississippi Senators Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker Friday cosponsored a measure to prohibit NASA from suspending work on the Constellation Program without justification. The Constellation Program was established in 2004 to be the human space exploration program to replace the Space Shuttle. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County is currently building rocket test stands for the Constellation Engines."

Contractors Preserving Constellation Funds To Pay for Program Closeout, Space News

"While NASA is asking Congress for $2.5 billion to shutter Constellation, agency officials say they do not know whether that money will be enough to pay for the government's closeout costs and still cover the termination expenses NASA contractors would incur as a result of having to cancel orders, vacate leases and pink-slip employees when the program is ordered shutdown. As a result, some contractors -- including Denver-based Lockheed Martin Space Systems -- are preparing to slow or stop work on Constellation in order to set aside program money to cover their own termination expenses when NASA formally issues the shutdown orders."

Dear Colleague Letter: NASA Cuts Threaten National Defense - Invitation to Important Defense Staff Briefing Next Week, Rep. Rob Bishop

"With the industry already reeling from the cumulative impacts of these large SRM program cuts and terminations, NASA has now made an ill-advised and drastic decision to propose total cancellation of the Constellation manned space flight program, which would also include termination of the Ares 1 rocket, leaving our nation without a single large-scale SRM program in full production for the first time in 50 years! That will leave the U.S. to rely solely on the Navy's D-5 missile Life Extension program, with a production rate of only one booster stack per month, as the bedrock in sustaining our nation's ability to produce large scale solid rocket motors. .... This important staff briefing will be conducted by representatives from SRM producer, ATK, as well as their suppliers and aerospace industry teammates, followed by lots of time for Q&A."

Utahns in Congress all against cuts to NASA, Salt Lake Tribune

"Bishop, whose district include Alliant Techsystems, which produces solid rocket motors and employs 3,500 people, said that Obama's budget on NASA doesn't save any money and that it would actually cost $2.5 billion to end the Constellation program. Moreover, Bishop says Obama's move hurts the country's ability to enhance its missile defenses."

Keith's note: I find it to be a little strange that the other major U.S. manufacturer of SRMs, Aerojet, is not being invited to participate in this presentation. If Rep. Bishop truly intended this event to be a discussion about national capabilities, one would assume that he'd try and get a representative set of presentations - not just one company's - the one he represents in Congress. Truth be known, this is really all about ATK and the fear of lost business in Utah - with the arm waving about national issues used as a smoke screen. As for DoD concerns, there is clearly no consensus on this issue - either way. As for the D-5, its first stage stage (a SRM) is 24 feet long whereas Aerojet's SRMs on the Atlas V are 67 feet long - so clearly someone other than ATK can make large SRMs.

Pentagon Not Yet Concerned Over NASA Changes, Aviation Week

"[Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff] did mention, however, that he and other defense officials have had longstanding concerns over the space industrial base, much the same way they do for shipbuilding. Like with warships, the admiral said there is consensus that the Defense Department is paying too much for old systems when it comes to space assets."

Sen. Says Solid Rocket Motor Costs Will Double, Navy Disagrees, Defense News

"During a Senate Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing, Rear Adm. Stephen Johnson, said he expects solid rocket motor prices to rise 10 to 20 percent. He assured Vitter that 100 percent price growth is not likely. Johnson heads Navy strategic systems programs."

New NASA Policy = Higher USAF Launch Costs?, earlier post

In Case You Missed It. .. Who is behind the cancellation of the Constellation program?, Rep. Rob Bishop

According to Rep. Bishop's website: "Last night on the Floor of the House of Representatives, Congressman Rob Bishop (UT-01) voiced concerns over statements made by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver, who is apparently the leading voice in the proposal to cancel the Constellation Program, NASA's tested replacement for the retiring Space Shuttle."

Keith's note: Excuse me Rep. Bishop - but are you suggesting that "NASA's tested replacement" is the Ares 1-X launch last year? You know, the one-off rocket built out of left-over parts, another launch vehicle's guidance system, and dummy upper stages? That's right - the same one that flew a strange profile after staging and had parachute failures. Just checking. I am not certain that this one test flight can be exagerated to imply (as you clearly do) that the Constellation program has been "tested". As for your off the wall conspiracy mongering with regard to Lori Garver's imaginary cabals to undermine human spaceflight until the end of time, I guess there's always one empty seat on the bus to crazy town - right next to Sen. Vitter.

Sen. Vitter Has Been Drinking the Koolaid, earlier post

My Word by Buzz Aldrin: Let shuttle do heavy lifting, Orlando Sentinel

"I have proposed that the heavy-lift rocket, which nearly everyone involved in space policy agrees we will need, be based upon the existing space-shuttle architecture. That means the heavy lifter uses the four-segment solid-fuel boosters, external tank and shuttle main engines, existing shuttle facilities, and, equally as important, the existing shuttle work force. Only the winged orbiter is replaced with a payload canister with the three engines mounted at its base."

NASA Needs a Clear Destination for Space Exploration, Experts Say, space.com

"I think we need to consider the attention span of the public, and the term limit of people in Congress that want to get reelected," said Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon. "We want to keep activity going that is inspirational for the young people, that is something that happens within term limits."

Why We Should Keep Flying the Space Shuttle, Buzz Aldrin, Huffington Post

"America has invested 30 years in the Shuttle system. Instead of retiring it and beginning with a new "clean sheet of paper" approach that will take extra time and money, I propose we follow the Russian example and make the basic Shuttle the foundation of a space program that can take us literally to Mars. Use the boosters, engines and big tank as the backbone of a new heavy lift rocket. Fly that rocket from the same facilities as the current Shuttles use. Keep much of the existing workforce working, because the only thing you will change is older designs and engines, making way for a heavy lift launcher derived from the Shuttle basics and capable of carrying large new spacecraft to the station or destinations beyond."

Aderholt Asks GAO To Investigate NASA's Constellation Activities for Possible Illegal Activity

"Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL) on Friday wrote a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) asking for an investigation into whether NASA's actions regarding the Constellation program, as well as the extent to which it is working on a new, unauthorized plan, violates law. On February 1, 2010, the President Obama Administration announced its FY2011 Budget, which proposes to eliminate the NASA Constellation program. Since that time, NASA has cancelled or put on hold numerous contracts which were a part of the regular, FY10 work for the Constellation program, despite the fact that Congress must first approve its termination before it becomes final policy."

Obama Plans Florida Forum to Discuss NASA's Future, NY Times

"Joseph R. Fragola, a safety consultant, said the review had found no critical flaws for Constellation. "Money is the problem," he said. "It's not technical."

- More Inconsistencies From the Ares 1 Risk Guru, earlier post
- Hanley Changes His Story On Ares 1 Safety - Again, earlier post

NASA Chief Bolden Seeks 'Plan B' for the Space Agency, Wall Street Journal

"NASA chief Charles Bolden has asked senior managers to draw up an alternate plan for the space agency after members of Congress indicated they wanted to reject a White House proposal to hire private companies to ferry U.S. astronauts into orbit and beyond. In an internal National Aeronautics and Space Administration memo viewed by The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Bolden ordered officials to map out "what a potential compromise might look like" to satisfy critics on Capitol Hill. By calling for an alternative plan, Mr. Bolden threatened to undercut White House efforts to get its proposed NASA budget through Congress."

Johnson Space Center Prepares 'Plan B' at Bolden's Request, Space News

"Bolden, however, said March 4 that he did not request NASA human spaceflight officials to come up with an alternative to Obama's plan. "The President's Budget for NASA is my budget. I strongly support the priorities and the direction for NASA that he has put forward," Bolden said in a written statement. "I'm open to hearing ideas from any member of the NASA team, but I did not ask anybody for an alternative to the President's plan and budget. We have to be forward thinking and aggressive in our pursuit of new technologies to take us beyond low-Earth orbit, and the President's plan does this. After years of underinvestment in new technology and unrealistic budgeting, we finally have an ambitious plan for NASA that sets the agency on a reinvigorated path of space exploration."

Keith's note: According to Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee staffer Jeff Bingham, posting as "51D Mascot" at nasaspaceflight.com regarding Sen. Hutchison's recent proposal:

"Absolutely right, but the point here is timing. At this stage you have "camps" at the extreme edges of "PoR" or bust and "Bold New Idea" with many of the influential folks and key players taking those positions--now. But when it becomes clear, as I believe it will, that neither of those are going to be sustainable, then a mddle ground will be sought. But it has to be articulated as an option, and THAT is the true purpose of this bill. Thus, an attempt to line up all those players prior to introduction would have been counterproductive. The hope is that having a reasonably cohesive, credible alternative "on the table" can provide an eventual rallying point for a path forward, or at the very least a focal point for the serious discussion of what that path should entail."

Bingham also notes here that "The Ares 1 references are, first, "suggestive" as options to be reviewed as part of HLV development. The notion is that an evolvable shuttle-derived HLV could begin with a core that might be an in-line configuration of 4-segment SSRBs, coupled to an ET-sized core segment (strengthened and with a boat-tail at the bottom holding SSMEs, and a payload attachment/inter-stage carrying an accelerated Orion with LAS attached) which would become the "government-operated" LEO/ISS support capability, with a target IOC of 2013."

Orion Under Siege

Lies, damned lies and timetables: NASA's Orion fights for its life , Orlando Sentinel

"The project believes it is extremely important to continue to show progress and professionalism. Stay with the guiding principles and work safe. Key milestones continue to be met. Some examples were PA-1 will launch in late April or early May. GSE test articles are being delivered to Michoud. Orion has a PDR design and is "very close" to completion. Heat shield installation tool due to be delivered to KSC in early March. CEV work station to arrive in April and the super station sometime this summer."

Keith's note: Word has it that one possible option under consideration is to reduce the Orion crew from 4 to 3 - just like Apollo. Also, I wonder if this push "to show progress and professionalism" is why no one at ESMD PAO ever released information about the recent parachute test failure.


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